So you’re not satisfied with the standard camera fare? Here’s a primer on what you need to have to be able to capture remarkable photos.
From our last meeting you know if you are happy just making 4X6 inch prints, a digital camera with a three megapixel capture device and a good lens will suit you just fine. If you want enhance quality and have the ability to increase the print size of your photographs, follow three guidelines: Get a camera a] that has a capture device with a higher resolution (2,4,6,8 megapixels = the more the better), b] a capture device that is physically larger in size (specifications such as 1/3.6, 1/2, 1/1.8, 2/3, 35mm film size, with each successive size better than the preceding one) and c] with a quality versatile zoom lens.
The quality of a lens, like the quality of the capture device chip, will naturally improve with its physical size, but this leads us to more professional, expensive equipment. Apart from size, I look for my lenses to be made with glass elements, versus optical poly-carbons, and certainly not made from plastic. This information is rarely forthcoming with any camera’s specifications. For peace of mind, accept that there are many digital camera manufacturers from Canon to Sony, with many brand names in between that make excellent products. Obviously, as with any product line, compact cameras higher in price are likely (not certain) to have better features. Quality has its price; you simply need to look for a sale.
By the way, in a previous article I did mention compact cameras rarely come with a lens able to give true wide angle view, that is, a 28mm equivalent, or powerful optical zoom capabilities. A Triton reader, Mark Buhler, e-mailed me that in Europe they do have some camera models available with a 7X zoom capability (as opposed to the norm of 3 to 4X), for example an optical range from 35mm to 245mm (wow!). Thanks for the tip Mark! Since the New Year a few models (Panasonic is one source) with these powerful optical zoom lenses are now available Stateside.
One final consideration in making a good compact camera purchase it termed “memory storage.” Your camera is capable of taking photographs of a certain maximum resolution (see a] above), and every megapixel photo you take has to be stored on a memory storage card. The larger the card the more photographs you can take and store.
These cards are a separate item inserted and removed from your camera. They are available in the form of a CompactFlash, Secure Digital, Memory Stick, Mini SD, Multimedia, or xD-Picture card. All of these cards work fine (except for Smart Media, which is no longer supported, so don’t buy anything using this storage). They all come in various storage capabilities up to 8 gigabytes as of this writing. The exception is the Memory Stick, which is exclusive to Sony products, with a maximum 2 gigabyte storage capacity to date.
Which type should you choose? Do you already own a camcorder using Secure Digital cards, or Sony product using a Memory Stick? You may then wish to stay with cameras using the same storage for compatibility, which will save you money. And what size cards, that is, how much storage capability should you buy? There are smaller cards (32, 64, 128 megabytes) available, but I would not buy anything smaller than 256 megabytes or larger than 2 gigabytes (4, 8 gigabytes) right now. Why? Cards too small do not hold enough and the largest capacity cards are the latest products and more expensive. I have several cards of medium capacity at hand and this works fine for me. All my equipment use of CF (CompactFlash) cards. There are a number of manufactures of these cards, providing me options and competitive pricing. Options include levels of read/ write speeds, indicated by a numbered “x”, such as 12x, 16x, up to 66x (150 KB per second), and professionally secure cards better able to withstand shocks and heat. New developments are always of interest to me, but generally they are made to meet the most demanding situations, in other words shopping by price is a great guideline to meet your needs.
My goodness, I was going to begin getting into using your cameras to capture great pictures, but I’m out of space. Until next time, permission to come ashore. Send me your questions to possibly cover in next issue.